20 Aug 2015

June in Andalusia

Living so far from home, I'm very fortunate to be given the chance to travel back to my home country, Spain, once per year, with a group of high school students, as part of the curriculum of the school I currently work for (mind you, I'm a language teacher, and that is what pays my bills and allows me to enjoy photography from the safe, stress-free distance of a pure hobby, albeit one that accounts for most of my free time). This is a study trip, which means we are primarily there to experience all the country has to offer, from a cultural, linguistic and historical point of view, and my responsibility is by no means small, but that does not mean that I'm not able to carry around my trusted little GM1 at all times, which allows me to double as a photographer while "on the road" for some photographic journey, as well.

La Almudena, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
No trespassing, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Curves and shadows, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Since I'm the organizer of the trip, the itinerary we follow every year depends entirely on my own criteria (granted that the School direction agrees with my planning, obviously), therefore I try to draw a completely different tour every year, so the students (and myself) have the chance to explore different areas of my country and, at the same time, the variation keeps myself motivated and excited to see places I hadn't seen myself before. For the past trip, last June, I decided we would be heading South, to Andalusia, the place where my mother was born before migrating up North shortly after. This would be my first time after all these years to fully travel across this vast and rich area and see the places that have been haunting my memories since childhood.

Duplication, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Lonely rays of sun, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Lady down the stairs, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
It was an extraordinarily hot June, blue skies and fiery sun pouring all over us, which made our walks a bit too unbearable at times, shadows our only shelters from temperatures higher than 40 degrees, everyone looking for shades or simply avoiding the streets in the afternoons, yet this granted me nice opportunities to photograph highly contrasting situations that might otherwise have passed unnoticed to my eyes.

The gang, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Calesa, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
The chairs await, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
One of the places my students enjoyed the most was Ronda, a lovely small town perched atop a cliff in Málaga's province. Ronda is famous for its Puente Nuevo, a very scenic bridge linking the old and old quarters of this town, both located on top of adjacent hills and separated by El Tajo, a narrow, deep cliff, and for the sheer beauty of the landscapes that you can enjoy from there. We only stayed a day and a night there but I'm positive they won't forget them.

Ronda behind the bars, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Ronda I, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Ronda II, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Puente Nuevo I, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Puente Nuevo II, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
It's in situations like these when I realize jus how convenient is to have a very small, portable kit, one that you can carry around when photography is not (it should not be) your main or even secondary goal (you are working as something else) but you don't want to lose the opportunities that might arise from your daily responsibilities. GM1 has been, to this date, the only camera I have consistently carried and used in all my work trips, totally unnoticed in my small handbag, and able to give me the group pictures that I'm supposed to grab to document my trip along my personal photographies on the side. For me, there is no doubt that a small camera is essential in any hobbyist arsenal, for it allows you to photograph in situations when otherwise you would not (or only with a phone and its much limited image quality).

Sources of light, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Vertical and circular, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
The crown, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Another highlight of our trip was, no doubt, Granada. And, within that beautiful city, the ancient, astonishing Alhambra Palace. The last remain of a once mighty empire, the red jewel defies the pass of time on top of the hill, overlooking the city below with pride. This was our last visit of those two intense weeks, and it was the perfect conclusion. I'm looking forward to next year's trip already, and planning where our steps (and shutter clicks) will lead us on that occasion!

Bush tunnel, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Inside Alhambra, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm
Alhambra, GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mm

9 Aug 2015

The malaise of tedium, or photography boredom

I guess it just happens, at one point or another: one day, while you are cleaning the house, you move out the camera bag to dust the shelf where it had been laying, untouched, for longer than you had realized, and then you wonder, when was the last time I went out to the streets, as I used to do almost on a weekly basis, for a photography stroll? And you can't quite recall the exact date, for it has been months since then. In my case, I started counting and I realized they had already passed five months since the last time I took my camera out for a bit of unplanned fun.

Against all odds, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Prayer, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The length of the time struck me as a revelation, but what was even more shocking was the fact that I still didn't feel like going out again anytime soon. Not that I had many other interesting things happening in my life; I just didn't feel the itch or call to grab my camera and leave my room, as used to be my weekend routine for the previous two years. What had changed, then? Essentially, nothing big or determinant had happened during these last months, as my life went on normally and the rest of my routines were not affected at all, so after a careful consideration, I just assumed I had hit a wall in my photographic development, one we could call as lack of inspiration or, better still, disinterest.

The sky above, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Urban frame, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
What used to give me joy and fulfillment had quietly faded from my list of interests, and, without noticing it, I had grown distant and reluctant to take my camera to go out and shoot. The diagnosis was clear, therefore what I had to find out now were the reasons that had brought me there, in order to be able to revert them, and move ahead. Because I wanted to feel the excitement, the thrill, the enjoyment of photography again, did I not?

Empty afternoon, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The board, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Was it boredom of the place where I lived, that had became stale after all that time wandering around it? Was it, perhaps, something else, a rooted tedium that had been quietly creeping inside my body for unknown reasons? Gear disillusion, maybe? I imagine they were a few factors coming into play at once, all draining me from the energy I had felt before towards photography (and relocating it who knows where); but I didn't feel anxious or even worried, and I didn't want to force myself to do something I didn't feel like doing, so, in the end, I decided I would simply go ahead with my daily life, without paying too much attention to it, and that I would wait for the right opportunity to slowly get back in track.

Preparations for the festival I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Preparations for the festival II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
And that opportunity came a month later, when another photowalk organized by the local photography group was held, and I decided it was about time to go out and let the camera do all the talking, once more. And so I did. Without much eagerness, truth be told, but I went nevertheless, and it was an enjoyable afternoon as these gatherings usually are. But what about my photographs? Well, the best I can say is that they lacked soul, they were boring frames most of the times, perfectly balanced and exposed, technically acceptable, but totally forgettable. Nothing to grab even my own attention for a second time.

Preparations for the festival III, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Preparations for the festival IV, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The camera, mind you, was as uninspired as I was, and this should come as no surprise, but it helped me put things into perspective and think about the matter from another perspective: what was driving me to go out to photograph before? For whatever that was, it needed to come back in order for me to feel the photography itch again. And no, it was not new gear. Neither a trip far away. After all, it was something much more simple: the joy of discovery, of exploration, of creation, was somehow gone, and nothing from outside would bring it back. The only way of clearing off my eyes to let them see things as fresh rather than old again was within me, and it implied two things: courage to refuse stagnation, actively seeking for change, and energy to push myself forward.

The birth of a fighter I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The birth of a fighter II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
On that moment I decided that, whenever a fork in the road would appear ahead of me, I would chose the winding one, not the straight. For practice, and struggle, and consistency at work are the only way s to avoid paralyzation, which is the most lethal virus against creativity. It would take time, I knew, and my pictures would probably continue being empty for a while, but as long as I kept trying, things would start working again. That's what I told myself. And then there would be no more endless words. There would be only steps, and shutter clicks.

The birth of a fighter III, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The birth of a fighter IV, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm